Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings. This entry dives into a few early pearls from a fascinating long-ranging interview with 5-star DT Maason Smith. Smith is simply the best defensive tackle prospect in the country for 2021.
His family and inner circle will call him “Tooka.” That’s the nickname Maason Smith’s father gave him back in the day.
What that means, he still does not know.
Smith also only recently learned the origin of his uncommon first name a year ago. That extra “a” added to the common spelling of his first name was put there to introduce a little flair to his birth certificate. It was necessary because his mother had a friend who was having a child at the same time he was on the way.
That young fella was going to be named Mason, too.
“My Dad said you could name him Mason but it couldn’t be like that so my Mom added the extra a,” Maason Smith said. “That’s how that happened.”
Needless to say, the 6-foot-5.5, 302-pounder has not had much trouble standing out ever since.
Smith had a wide-ranging interview with DawgNation about a great many things, including his feelings on his eventual decision. There was so much ground to cover that DawgNation will split it into a few pieces to cover all the material.
That’s needed because it is vital to understand the way Smith looks at a lot of things first. Those are the moving parts that will also frame his college decision. Take that quick story about his first name. That extra “a” shows he was born to go about things his own way.
There’s a lot more here that goes into shaping this young man’s story aside from a 5-star ranking and how he feels about his top schools.
Stephen A. Smith? What about Maason C. Smith?
Smith is an excellent communicator. From the perspective of a reporter who will conduct at least 400 interviews a year, the time spent with Smith sticks out in any calendar year. Or multiple years. He’s just that sharp of a communicator. The agile defender offers up a keen way of telling stories about his life and simply just speaking his mind.
He’s very comfortable in his own skin. That’s likely why he no longer wants to pursue his M.B.A. in college.
“That’s kind of what everybody goes for and I kind of wanted to be different,” Smith said.
That’s true with his intended college major. His new career goal, aside from playing in the NFL, is to work in sports broadcasting.
“A bunch of coaches I speak with have been telling me just with me talking that I could definitely do something like sports networking and working on ESPN talking and stuff like that,” he said. “Like an analyst.”
The schools on his radar that are home to a powerhouse communications program, like the one at UGA, will enhance their chances of signing him.
The way he speaks and the inflection patterns he will remind a reporter of the interview reps he conducted with NFL first-round pick Derrick Brown in 2015. That former 5-star went on from Lanier High in Georgia to play for Auburn.
When Gus Malzhan told Smith that talking to him was like talking to Brown, he wasn’t recruiting him. Malzhan nailed it. That was pretty evident. When asked to name a player that he thinks his game resembles the most, Smith also brought up Brown.
Smith told DawgNation that his cumulative grade-point average for his first three years of high school currently sits at a 3.714. There’s a lot to appreciate here aside from his No. 19 overall ranking on the 247Sports Composite for the Class of 2021.
BREAKING: Get ready for an improved Maason Smith
What have we done with our quarantine time? Did anyone learn a new language? A new skill? Redecorate multiple rooms? Did we try a new hobby?
Smith put on the “Quarantine 15” and then some. But then he promptly lost it with a Keto diet about two months ago. He told DawgNation that he was up to 343 pounds on May 5. That was at the end of his quarantine time.
The new slim-and-trim 2020 model Smith is down to a precise 302.6 pounds. The hardest part was cutting out the bread, he says.
“I took a trip with some of the boys to Baton Rouge this weekend,” he said of that good time. “This weekend was the first time I ate bread in two months.”
Smith weighed 325 at the start of his junior season and consistently shed weight over the fall. He was all the way down to 298 pounds. It will allow for a lot of position versatility in college.
“Alabama wants me to play the ‘5’ tech,” Smith said. “Georgia and LSU and basically all of the schools want me to play the ‘5’ and the ‘3’ and most of them want to start me outside at the ‘5’ but I think I will be more effective at the ‘3’ because tackles are a lot more athletic than guards usually.”
“I think I can create a really big mismatch rushing a guard opposed to rushing a tackle.”
Smith wants to play around 300 pounds this fall and float between 285 and 295 in college. With a lot more muscle tone. If he does, he will quickly challenge for starting reps anywhere.
Take a look at this clip first. Then think about what he’d look like minus about 20-25 pounds.
— MAASON SMITH (@maassoonn_) June 29, 2020
Smith already draws a double-team about 75 percent of the time in high school. That might evolve into a given by the time he is a sophomore in college. He can be quite the dominator at 285-290 pounds.
The Korey Foreman-Maason Smith package deal is likely
Package deals? Among 5-stars from different time zones? (Rolls eyes.)
We get it. Those things play well in March or May before the senior season but then reality sets in. It is just the norm when young men with their own priorities get closer to that life-shaping decision.
Those coy lines in interviews tease fan bases in the spring and summer. But then almost always unravel in the fall.
It happens so often that veteran reporters tend to regard such headlines and click magnets. They tend to resemble fool’s good for their own credibility.
It happens so much it is far-fetched to ever expect it. Even in a different recruiting cycle altered by a pandemic.
But then the young man who says what he means and means what says offers his authentic opinion.
Should a line that says 5-star Korey Foreman and 5-star Maason Smith will play together be taken seriously? Is this relationship any different?
“I honestly think it is,” Smith said. “I am 100 percent sure that I will be playing college football with Korey Foreman. Yeah.”
Those two chat about their combined futures together just about every day. Every. Day.
“Honestly when we first started saying that, it was a big deal but it wasn’t as big of a deal as it is now,” Smith said. “That is literally my best friend.”
When they were in Athens together for the huge secret-but-then-not-so-secret recruiting weekend, they didn’t want to leave. The same goes for this past weekend in Baton Rouge.
“That’s like my brother,” Smith said. “Me and him in college is a definite thing. We don’t have the same top five but realistically with what I can’t say on the record is that he and I have the same top three schools. We are looking at the same three schools very heavily. You can ask him this, too. I am 100 percent sure that I am going to play with him.”
This sort of thing is supposed to turn to Jell-O. And yet it now appears to be showing off six-pack abs.
Maason Smith: He will not commit. Just sign on December 16
Smith wanted to use this summer to take his visits. Georgia was set to be one of his stops. That’s because he had never been to Georgia prior to his recent visit on what was first designed to be a secret recruiting weekend for elite Bulldog targets.
He had been to Alabama, his childhood dream school, twice. Smith had also been to LSU “countless” times. “Tooka” had even seen Ole Miss twice.
Those three schools were the only programs he had seen multiple times.
“I would say that I wouldn’t be giving myself a fair decision if I didn’t give myself a shot to go to a Georgia or an Alabama or a Miami or any other school more than once,” Smith said. “I feel like you can’t make a decision off of one visit to be completely honest.”
Smith is about to turn 18. He shared his top 10 right about the time he turned 17. Georgia was in there. Smith then dropped his top 8 on July 4 and the Bulldogs remained in contention. Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU and Miami were the only schools on both of those lists.
“I am early enrolling wherever I go so I will be signing on December 16,” Smith said. “I’m not planning on committing anywhere until [National Early] Signing Day.”
To be clear, the plan is not to commit anywhere. The team he announces on the first day of the early signing period (Dec. 16) will also serve as his commitment.
Which programs are still in contention here?
“It is basically down to like Georgia, LSU, Alabama, Miami, Florida, USC and that’s probably it,” Smith said. “Truthfully, that’s probably it.”
What motivates “Tooka” to be great?
Smith took a good rep with this question. If he wants to be both in front of the cameras with a microphone on his person over the next 30 years, he should be able to tell a story well.
Especially his own.
“Honestly I think from being way down South and not really a big town that is not really a recruited-heavy area I really believe the future kids after me is what really motivates me,” Smith said.
He wants to put Houma (phonetics: HOM-A) on the map. The goal will be to make that town known for something besides fishing and oil field. His community is about an hour’s drive from New Orleans.
Former teammate Ja’Khi Douglas made it out of Terrebonne High, too. He’s now a freshman RB at Florida State. There have been some players rise up from the Bayou before they were born, but nothing recently.
He now carries a noble goal: To inspire others to follow the path now being laid by two kids named Douglas and Smith.
“But before me and Ja’Khi you wouldn’t have seen Alabama or schools out of state coming down here to get a recruit,” he said. “I think that’s a big part of what makes me keep going. Not only am I bettering the chances of my family and myself receiving and having a better life. Or just having a chance to make my parents not have to pay for college is a blessing. Because not everybody has got it like that.”
“It also enables the kids after me to be able to have a chance just to broaden their mind in that somebody from their area made it out and went on to play college football. Most kids always dream about playing football, baseball, basketball or something in college.”
The other thing that drives him is his family. It sounds like the most important engine here.
The family ties that inspire Maason Smith
Smith and his family have been blessed. Both of his parents have made their own mark on the world. They will not be living through their 5-star son.
His mother, Dr. Cara M. Morgan, practices family medicine in Mississippi. His father, Malcolm Smith, now runs his own company in the oil industry. He is on the road often. Those two had long planned to go on that Keto diet together, but Smith went ahead on his own.
“My Mom and Dad are in their 50s,” Maason Smith said. “My stepmom is in her 40s. My grandma just turned 82 two days ago. “I want them while they are still here, especially my grandmother, to not have to worry about nothing. I want them to come to my games. I want them to see me thrive before they have to leave the Earth.”
“With my parents, I want to see them happy. They have sacrificed a lot of stuff for me to be in the position that I am in and at the end of the day I always want to give back to my parents. They didn’t have to raise me as the great young man that I am today. They didn’t have to do any of that. I have a $60,000 truck. They didn’t have to get that for me.”
He realizes his parents have worked to provide him things his peers do not have. That’s why he feels blessed to know they will not have to pay for his college education. He also wants to do more now and then a lot more in a few years for his community.
His parents and his grandmother have poured their best into him. Smith wants to reflect his best in his own unique way. He’d love to one day open a community or a homeless shelter in his hometown, too.
The goal here is to leave his mark. To put his name on something that will bring hope to Houma.
Maason Smith wasn’t always good at football
Smith said he has been playing football since he was six.
“I was always a lot bigger than everybody,” he said. “I can say that now that I have seen myself grow as a player. But like when I got to ninth grade, I wasn’t that good at all. I’ve always been able to move. I wasn’t always big but I was always tall. I also played soccer and stuff early so I have always been a fast, big kid.”
But he chose to correct that last statement. He was overselling it.
“That’s not it really,” he corrected himself. “I’ve always been athletic for a very big dude. And after my ninth grade year, I did the camp circuit. I went to LSU and all those places and then I got my first offer from Louisiana-Lafayette. That kind of showed me I could see myself having a future in football.”
When he was a high school freshman, he didn’t handle adversity well. Especially his emotions. He had to learn and grow to become a competitor. Mentally and physically.
Ernest “Turk” Harvey Jr. has been an invaluable trainer. His “Camp Moula” sessions have been designed for smaller and faster athletes. Not the bigs. He has a long high-profile client list for his region.
Smith is the 300-plus pound exception to the norm.
“I don’t necessarily work as a defensive lineman when I go there,” Maason Smith said. “I work on a lot of footwork and how to separate myself from being a normal lineman. I think he has done a great job with pacing me and teaching me how to get my feet right. That’s a big thing to have in that good footwork when you are a defensive lineman.”
How hard will it be for Maason Smith to leave Louisiana?
This topic is very long. And complex.
Smith said that some of his home folks in his state got a little uneasy about that secret visit to UGA. That’s when Smith abruptly joined up with all those other elite targets.
“Shoot a lot of people especially from down here were mad at me for doing it,” Maason Smith said. “When I got back, I heard it.”
It begins with staying at home and playing for his home state. He is fully aware of the reputation LSU has acquired for letting elite 5-star prospects like him leave the state.
Which odds are longer here? For Zion Williamson to be traded out of Louisiana to play for the Hawks? Or for Smith to bypass Baton Rouge for UGA? That might be a push.
“I definitely understand it,” Smith said of LSU. They are definitely the school that pressures the most about like commitment and stuff like that.”
But then he intelligently drew a parallel to explain how he looked at it. He shared that his mother used to live in Douglasville in the Metro Atlanta area as an example of his point.
“But I understand the why,” he said. “That’s just like if I was in Georgia and say I lived in Douglasville and I was in the University of Georgia’s backyard they would get pressure from the community and the boosters in trying to make this kid that they know stay home.”
Smith is aware of the recruiting ties Georgia now has in Louisiana. The Bulldogs signed an All-American center in Sedrick Van Pran-Granger (New Orleans) and an All-American safety in Major Burns (Baton Rouge) in the 2020 class. Georgia also flipped a combo defensive back in Daran Branch from Louisiana in 2020.
Makiya Tongue, another 4-star WR, was a part of the 2019 class in Athens.
“But you know what I think the pressure is not as bad as it used to be,” Maason Smith said. “Because I’ve kind of set that boundary. I’ve told them I’m not making that decision until signing day. I guess they’ve been very considerate about it lately. But Georgia has definitely been getting a lot of dudes out of Louisiana. Shoot, they got three of them in the last recruiting cycle. But I don’t feel the pressure as much because for one what I told you I don’t really feel the pressure anymore. But for number two growing up I didn’t really like LSU growing up because I always thought it was expected for everybody to like LSU. I always liked Alabama.”
Smith rolled with the Crimson Tide as a youth.
“I guess that’s why I have never committed to LSU because like I never really, well you know, because most dudes here the reason why you really don’t hear most dudes leave the state is that usually growing up that’s their dream,” he said. “That’s embedded into their head. You know that ‘I want to go to LSU and play football’ and that was never my dream. Because my Dad is a Florida Gators fan. My mom doesn’t watch college football. She’s a [New Orleans] Saints fan. I guess it was never really put in my face that LSU was my dream school or anything like that.”
What is Maason Smith looking for in a college fit?
The answer to that subheading above will also trace to his family.
“I honestly want a place that will take care of me and my family,” Smith said. “Not while I am just there but life after football. Say with me going into sports broadcasting somebody that will help get me that job on ESPN or help me get something like that with my college studies. Then also a place that will provide that family feel and really care for me not only as a student-athlete but as a person.”
“You know some schools really don’t do that. I always thought that people were just saying that. Because it is something easy to say that everyone says. But now I have really seen that not all schools care about YOU. As a person. I really want somewhere that my family could come and see me play and be comfortable and that’s pretty much it.”
But think about this for a second. The global pandemic has kept LSU from utilizing all the time-tested lures to keep the 5-stars home. It has prevented a series of “Junior Days” and spring practice and spring game visits. The same thing for the team camps. Smith hasn’t gotten to do that and develop a bond with other potential teammates.
He hasn’t had those long heart-to-hearts on campus with the LSU coaches, including the charismatic head coach. There won’t be packed night games in Death Valley this fall or the “Tiger Walk” or those unmistakable traditions that help LSU football sell itself without really trying.
The things that make it hard for a Louisiana boy to leave home just aren’t happening. And they haven’t happened for the last seven months.
Does Smith buy into that theory? Is that a factor?
“Definitely,” he said. “You are kind of spot on with that. I’m not going to lie but also I have always wanted to see other schools. I have always made that a big deal for me. I always wanted to see if there was anything there that interested me. That was pretty dead-on what you said there.”
Check out his last top 8 below. There’s a program in there who will be quite happy in December.
— MAASON SMITH (@maassoonn_) July 4, 2020
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